After the fun ESPN tour I headed into the Sprint Cup garage. I walked down one row and then another and stopped at the stall for the No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. I took photos and then noticed Michael Waltrip walking towards me. As he passed by he smiled and said “Hello” to me and the guy taking photos next to me. He got into the car and strapped himself in.
Here’s the thing, I knew that the practice sessions were set to start soon, but I didn’t realize exactly how soon. So here I am walking down the garage right in front of the car stalls stopping at each one to take a photo. I started to see a pattern that all of the drivers seemed to be in their cars with their helmets on all at the same time. It didn’t dawn on me that they were minutes from racing out of the garage and onto the track until I got to the end of the row and noticed that nobody else was as close to the stalls as I was and drivers were looking at me as I took their photos like “What are you doing? Who are you? Don’t you know I’m about to run you over?!” It wasn’t that serious, but it was really, really, eerie.
I mean, really eerie. It’s this extreme calm before the storm. They were all just sitting there waiting for the go ahead. As soon as I caught on that they would be racing out at any moment I decided to walk faster and get to a corner where I could get a good view of the cars as they pulled out and stay well out of everyone’s way.
Once practice was over it was time for the drivers & crew chiefs meeting before the start of the Nationwide Series race. First I must say that I love the way the infield area of Chicagoland is laid out. The media center is smack dab in the center of everything and it’s closed off so the fans, even those with pit passes, are kept well away from it. The Sprint Cup garage is to the left and the Nationwide garage is to the right, and the tent for the drivers meeting was behind it.
So back to the drivers meeting, I went to tent area and stood with the security stationed outside of it to keep the fans at bay. Since it was the Nationwide race after all there weren’t that many people waiting with me, maybe like 3 or 4? If that, I’m not entirely sure but I know it wasn’t anything near all of the people that were there the next day for the Sprint Cup drivers meeting. They had to put up steel barriers for that one. But I digress. So I’m standing there and drivers start to trickle in. I snapped Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth.
And then there was Clint.
Clint Bowyer walks up, all alone and I hold up my camera to take a photo and he looks in my direction. Now, I had no idea if he was actually looking at me or just in my general vicinity. I had no idea what expression he was making and honestly I didn’t want to know. I feel totally fine about taking pictures of people if they’re not looking at me while I’m doing it. Plus he’s seen me directly taking shots of him at Las Vegas and Infineon and now Chicagoland. So I didn’t dare look up from my camera for fear that he might be frowning or something. I don’t know. He went into the tent and that was that.
Later on I looked at the photo in its full size and I cracked up because he is in fact staring straight at me with this weird expression that looks kinda like he’s pissed. But I love this photo. It’s my most favorite photo to date. The look on his face is priceless; he’s like “What??” Hmm. Note to self: No more photos of Clint Bowyer, at least for the next race. Or at least not when he’s looking.
Sprint Cup cars roll out to the track for a practice session at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Tony Stewart heads into the drivers meeting before the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
David Ragan (far left), Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth leave the drivers meeting before the Dollar General 300 on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)